In Our Community

Local Executives Work to Create a Philanthropic Corporate Culture

Photo: Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media

Photo: Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media

This past Tuesday local executives met at the First County Bank Executive Offices to hold a panel discussion on philanthropic strategies within the community. The panel event, organized by the Mark Lapine Endowment for Families in Business Foundation, discussed key factors in engaging the nonprofit community. Local executives on the panel were:

  • Cindi Bigelow, President and CEO, Bigelow Tea
  • Reyno Giallongo, Jr., Chairman and CEO, First County Bank, and President, First County Bank Foundation
  • Tiffany Kuehner, Board Chair and former CEO, Hope for Haiti
  • Mike Maguire, CEO, Structural Graphics, and Co-founder, Raise the Roof
  • Ashok Vasudevan, Co-founder and CEO, Preferred Brands International, Chairman of the Board, Tasty Bite Eatables Ltd.
  • Moderator: Noah Lapine, Owner, President of Lapine Associates

“We believe that engagement in the nonprofit community should come from an individual’s DNA,” said Rey Giallongo, Jr. Recognizing this many of these executives credit their employees for engaging and fulfilling many of the initiatives they are involved in. “Be there . . . be loud. . .” said Mike Maguire, whether it’s community events or encouraging employees, being authentic about your values and mission play an important role in strengthening local communities.


First County Bank Profile

Get to Know Aitza Cabrera

Aitza Cabrera

Meet Aitza Cabrera, Assistant Vice President, Branch Manager of the Darien Branch, Mortgage Loan Originator NMLS# 773367.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been with First County Bank for 15 years. I started at the Bank as a Teller and my career has grown to become a Branch Manager and Mortgage Loan Originator. I enjoy all aspects of my job whether it’s helping someone open their first banking account or getting them into their first home.

I was born and raised here in Stamford, which is where I currently reside with my husband and three boys. I enjoy spending time with my family, being outdoors, and attending their sporting events. In my free time, I also enjoy doing volunteer work at Person-2-Person, and my boys like to volunteer with me as well.

What is your favorite part of your role at First County Bank?
My favorite part is interacting with customers during the mortgage application process. During this process I really get to know my customers, their goals, their dreams and their family. Through this I am able to answer their questions and provide them with the right solution to fit their specific wants and needs.

What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?
There are few, but the number one question I get is: “How long have you been with First County Bank?” Most people don’t believe it’s been 15 years, which opens up a whole new conversation – which I love.

Other frequent questions are: “What are the current rates?” and “Can you help me?”

What advice would you give someone looking to buy or sell in 2017?
It’s okay to be nervous, and not have all the answers to the process. That’s what we are here for, to answer your questions and guide you through the process, whether it’s buying or selling your home.

Lifestyle Trends & Tips, Smart Savings Tips

How to Stay Financially Literate

networkmoneyApril is National Financial Literacy month. Whether it’s in schools, in the community or in the workplace, the importance of educating each other on personal finance seems to have lost its importance.

We have also noticed this issue and have made great strides to improve the financial literacy and the availability of financial education to those within our community. In 2011 we began the First County Bank Money Smart Program. We’ve conducted over 150 seminars for hundreds of members of the Norwalk and Stamford communities. With an FDIC Money Smart Alliance Certificate of Membership and as an FDIC Money Smart for Young Adults Partner, this program has made an impact in our community and demonstrates our dedication to financial literacy education as a year-round effort.

Our Money Smart Program is not limited to just adults, we have held seminars in four high schools in the Norwalk and Stamford communities. Recently in 2016, we opened a limited-access high school branch at the Academy of Institute Technology and Engineering (AITE) for high school students and managed by high school students. This high school branch no only represents our commitment to financial literacy but creates an opportunity for students to ask questions and explore the challenges of personal finance.

Whether it’s in your school, your community, your workplace, or your family – use this month to start a conversation around financial literacy. More and more seminars are becoming available to educate members of the community on personal finance and its importance. Let’s not let the importance of National Financial Literacy Month slip by without action.

First County Bank Profile

First County Profile: Hugo Ramirez

Hugo_Ramirez_FirstCountyBankMeet Hugo Ramirez, Assistant Vice President, Branch Manager of the Main Avenue Branch in Norwalk.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born, raised and currently live in Stamford. I have been in the banking industry for the past 17 years. I began working at First County Bank last summer and it’s been a great experience ever since. When I am not working, I love spending time with my son and family. My son and I play many different sports together – I love teaching him different tips and tricks. When I am not enjoying my family, I am enjoying time at my local gym, traveling, and rooting for the current NFL Superbowl Champion New England Patriots. I also like being involved in the community. In Norwalk, I am a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as well as the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce.

What is the favorite part of your role with First County Bank?

My favorite part of working at First County Bank is interacting with customers. I like to be involved with all customers, whether they are opening a basic savings account or applying for a business loan. I genuinely enjoy getting to know the various customers of First County Bank as well as adding value to their overall banking needs and experience.

Equally as enjoyable, is being able to work with a great team in my Branch. It’s a privilege to work with the individuals on my team. Every day I look forward to being able to coach and motivate my staff to be as successful as possible in their careers.

What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?

“When are deposit rates going up?”

Do you have a favorite First County Bank moment?

When First County Bank asked me to join!


Lifestyle Trends & Tips, Smart Savings Tips

It’s More than Just a Savings Account

moneybankAccording to America Saves, only two out of five households are making “good” progress in achieving their savings needs. Insufficient savings is a growing trend in our society, and we want to change it. Setting a little extra cash aside for an emergency fund or stowing away money in a retirement account may seem like simple tasks, but we know the toll it can take when living from paycheck to paycheck – that being said, we also realize it’s importance.

Saving is more than just a financial task, it’s a state of mind. It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a gradual process that is built over time. Setting aside extra cash does not mean giving up half a paycheck. Extra cash can be as much or as little as $25, which is an amount that will make a build-up and make a difference over time.

Realizing this, in 2016 we set out to develop a product that was a fun way to help our customers begin the gradual process of saving regularly. The FirstPrize $avings account was launched in October and has been a success since. Account holders are encouraged to save $25 deposits and resist the temptation to withdraw it. Customers who successfully make eligible deposits are entered in a drawing for $1,000 – which is put right into their account.

Saving isn’t always the most exciting topic of conversation. We’re hoping that through efforts like the FirstPrize $avings account, we can change the trend of setting extra cash aside in our local area and helping everyone make better progress in achieving their savings needs.


In Our Community

FirstPrize $avings Account: Recent Winner Announced

We’re excited to announce that Carlene Green of Stamford, CT is our most recent winner of the FirstPrize $avings account $1,000 drawing. Responding to the overwhelming need for consumers to increase their savings, we designed the FirstPrize $avings account to inspire those over the age of 18 to save by encouraging frequent and consistent deposits. With each eligible deposit of $25 or greater into this savings account, account holders can automatically earn chances to win $1,000. Account holders can earn up to ten chances per month and up to 30 chances per three month drawing period. A winner is selected in a random drawing held four times per year.

“You made my day. I’m so excited!’ said Carlene when she was told she was the winner of the $1,000 FirstPrize $avings account drawing for the period December 1, 2016 through February 28, 2017. Robert Granata, COO and President of First County Bank was equally as excited to present Carlene with the $1,000 check. “I’m happy to present Carlene Green with $1,000 for winning the Bank’s FirstPrize $avings account drawing,” said Granata. “First County Bank developed the new product in order to provide a cash prize incentive to encourage people to save, while making saving money exciting.”

The next drawing period has already begun! If you haven’t already, sign-up for this account and begin building your savings with a chance to win $1,000! Account details, rules and regulations can be found at:

Carlene Green is presented with $1,000 by Justyna Nurczyk, Branch Manager and Robert Granata, COO & President, First County Bank

Carlene Green is presented with $1,000 by Justyna Nurczyk, Branch Manager, First County Bank and Robert Granata, COO & President, First County Bank

In Our Community, Lifestyle Trends & Tips

Juanita James and “The Bright Side”

juanita_jamesIn a recent article from the Greenwich Times, First County Bank Corporator, Juanita James was profiled in an article titled, “The Bright Side.” As an established businesswoman and philanthropist, James credits this to always having a positive outlook. From early challenges at Princeton University to becoming the first in her family to graduate from college, “she never loses her smile.”

As a businesswoman, James held high-level executive positions at both Time Inc. and at Pitney-Bowes, here in Stamford. Some of her recognition include being named, Stamford’s Citizen of the Year and Most Influential Black Corporate Directors.

Noting her challenges but choosing to dwell on her positive experiences, James states, “There seems to always be periods of great dissatisfaction and usually we come out of it with great leadership, because in the end, people want to be happy. As leaders, we need to generate that. Each of us has that power.” We congratulate Juanita on her accomplishments and are proud to have her as a First County Bank Corporator.

To read the full article, click here.

First County Bank Profile

Get to Know Beth Brucker

022B2234Gray croppedMeet Beth Brucker, Mortgage Loan Originator.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I began my career in the mortgage industry in 2002. Since then, I have held a wide range of roles including processing, underwriting, origination, management and operations. These experiences helped me build an unwavering focus on customer service.

I’ve been a resident of Connecticut for over 35 years. I originally lived in Westport, but was forced to move after our home was damaged during Hurricane Sandy. I now live in North Wilton with my husband, dog and cat. I have remained involved in the Westport Community as a member of the Westport Rotary and recently served as a member of the Westport Shellfish Commission. After a long week, I look forward to evening cuddles with my cat Tutti and early morning runs with my dog Riley.

What is your favorite part of your role at First County Bank?

My favorite part of my role at First County Bank is a shared belief system – the idea of being someone a customer or client can trust while also providing the best service possible.

What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?

“What is the overall process?” and “What is the best loan program suited for me?” Those are the most frequently asked questions I hear.

What advice would you give someone looking to buy or sell in 2017?

Shop carefully and make sure that when receiving advice, it’s from someone you can trust.


First County Bank Foundation

Hurry – The Grant Deadline is Approaching!

sdfasdfsdfasOur Foundation was established in 2001 to honor the Bank’s 150th Anniversary. Since then, the First County Bank Foundation has awarded over 1,000 individual grants, worth over $7.5 million to local nonprofit organizations that support community and economic development, affordable housing and quality of life initiatives, and educational enrichment programs for families and children.

Our Standard Grant Application is quickly approaching its March 31st deadline. All grant requests are considered, with the average amount awarded in the range of $2,500 to $5,000. The priority areas of focus are programs that:

  • Support community and economic development such as job skills training and placement, initiatives to promote independence and self-sufficiency, meeting food, clothing, health and shelter needs, senior services and family support programs.
  • Increase the availability of affordable housing and programs that support quality of life including supportive and transitional housing, housing rehabilitation programs and first time homebuyer initiatives.
  • Provide educational enrichment for families and children including mentoring programs, summer activities, funding for college classes and parenting classes.

In an effort to streamline the application process and make it easier to apply, we are pleased to announce our new online application. To apply for the Standard Grant, click here or visit the link below.

First County Bank Profile, Lifestyle Trends & Tips

Get to Know Dave Zamary

David Zamary

David Zamary

Meet Dave Zamary, Senior Vice President, Residential Lending Manager.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I currently live in Milford, CT with my wife and dog Chance. I have been with First County Bank for over 30 years. In my tenure I have experience with all aspects of mortgage origination, specializing in residential purchase and refinance, lending, and construction permanent lending. When I am not helping homebuyers get into the home of their dreams, I am active in my local community as a Knights of Columbus member and volunteering at a local food pantry.

What is your favorite part of your role with First County Bank?
I enjoy helping home buyers get into their home. I especially enjoy helping first-time homebuyers as it is often such an exciting experience for them.

What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?
Top three questions are: How long I’ve been with the Bank? How old is the Bank? Is the Bank stock or mutual? Clients are often most pleased to hear that I have been with the Bank for over 30 years and that we are a mutual community bank.

What advice would you give someone looking to buy or sell in 2017?
Go for it! Interest rates are still low and the purchase market is starting to get busy. It’s a good time to buy or sell.